Restaurant Japan, 〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku, 3 Chome−32−5, 日 原 ビル B1 Published on: 05-04-2016
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Why Nakajima is special ?
Tokyo tops the world when it comes to Michelin-starred restaurants, but that doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune to enjoy the food at one of these acclaimed establishments. Not far from Shinjuku Station, in the basement floor of one of the city's many nondescript buildings, Nakajima serves up a set menu lunch at a bargain price of only 800 yen (about $8). Iwashi (sardines) are the star of the show during lunchtime. They're available fried with panko, sashimi-style, simmered in dashi with soy sauce (known as nizakana), or, for another 100 yen, prepared in an eggy casserole known as Yanagawa nabe. The set menu comes with miso soup, rice, and tsukemono, with green tea available at no additional charge.
In the nizakana preparation, slow simmering keeps the delicate sardine skin intact. Once you pull the flesh from the bone, the meat's oily-rich flavor really shines, thanks to a subtle dashi that lets the fish do most of the talking. In the sashimi prep, the firm slices of raw sardine sparkle with flecks of silver, served alongside wakame (seaweed) and grated ginger, which tends to pair well with silver fish.
With pricing and quality this good, it's no surprise that lines start forming at Nakajima before it even opens its doors. While a line that backs up from the basement entrance and climbs the steps to the street may seem intimidating, service is professional and efficient, with tables turning fairly quickly. Counter seats offer a view of the chefs at work, prepping for the dinner service that costs more than ten times the price of lunch.
- A must try whilst in Shinjuku
- Great for lunch
- Delicious and great value
- Cheap and tasty, must try!
- Delicious Lunch at reasonable price
- Noise level Normal
- Budget Medium
- Alcohol YES
- Air condition YES
- Had kid menu NO
- Accept credit card YES
- Serve breakfast NO
- Serve halal NO
- Serve vegeterian NO
Japan, 〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku, 3 Chome−32−5, 日 原 ビル B1
Tips for you
My husband and I chanced upon this place whilst reading the pocket concierge. We were very surprised when upon ringing this place on the very same day, we were offered counter seating for dinner. As we had a flight to catch after dinner, we decided to opt for the chef's menu at 8,000yen. We were a little worried that the full 15,000 menu may mean we had to stay longer. The meal started with a plate of 3 appetizers - squid, octopus and some other seafood in a shell. All tasted very fresh. Next up was a seasonal dish of hot soup with vegetable, soup and small tiny fish. The soup itself was bland but we enjoyed its simplicity. Then came the sashimi which just melted in our mouths. The lady hostess was very attentive and explained the dishes to us patiently. Meanwhile, the restaurant was beginning to fill up with local patrons who were all ushered into rooms meant for dining. The grilled dish came next and we were told that the salmon had been marinated for 4 days prior. Needless to say, the dish was a hit. The fried dish was next and I would have to say that the tempura cherry prawn was the best tempura I had during this particular trip to Japan. It was very special and highly recommended, if you manage to visit this place. Next was boiled fish with mushroom and cabbage. Loved it. We were then told that the next dish would be the last rice dish and whether we wanted anything else to add. So we asked for another kind of sushi which they haven't let us try and their sardines. They obliged and prepared the unni as well as the fried sardines which is highly recommended. They prepared a huge plate for us but it was cooked to perfection and I have never enjoyed sardines that much before (check out the photo). Finally, the rice dish with fish was presented with the pomelo ice cream next with green tea. The rice dish was simple yet good and completed our meal nicely. We ordered 3 types of sake to go along with the meal. This place is a hidden gem and given a chance, I would visit again in a heartbeat!
Excellent food, a bit hidden, and cant beat the price. The wait was a little bit as they only have limited seating, and the seating inside was slightly communal, but the food was very very good. A note: make sure you can manage at least a minimal amount of Japanese, this place is already slightly off the track and expecting perfect accommodation of foreign language in a place that is more a local hangout is asking a bit much, the staff there have a lot of people to get in and out and though they may seem a bit rude at first glance, they are just trying to serve a lunch crowd that needs to eat quickly and get back to work.
Don't even think about it; if you find yourself in Tokyo take an hour and a half off for lunch and go line up at Nakajima. Not only will you leave well fed, but with an enormous appreciation of the depths of Japanese cuisine and sardines. Nakajima has one Michelin star and it is so well earned. Everything tastes fresh and is prepared to perfection. The fact that they have decided to keep a lunch service open for 8 dollars per person is pure charity because their dinner is about 80 dollars per person. Go early though because although they are open for lunch till 1:45pm, there was a long line when we were there and they cut off the line at about 12:55pm. The wait was long, about 40 minutes perhaps, but once seated the service was super fast. A set menu includes rice, a small serving of pickled vegetables (greens, carrot, dikon), the most delicious miso soup and the star if the meal - sardines prepared how you like it. They had sashimi (raw), basted, baked and fried like a katsu. We tried the basted and fried like katsu versions and cannot recommend them enough, although I suspect everything is done to perfection here. I'm not a fish person but I could perhaps eat here every day and not get tired. Extra points for beautiful yet simple interior decor and the graciousness of service, so very humble for being such magicians with food.